May 10th 1940, at 3.55 hrs Dutch time (05.35 German time) – as the first beams of light tickled the horizon – the German invasion of the west became a fact. A series of parallel events unfolded. We shall address them in an order from east to west, south to north for a country not really ready for a war.
At 10 May 1940 the German army opened the attack on the west. Operation Fall Gelb had been planned in 1939 and had been thoroughly modified during the winter of 1940. Hitler all the time quarantined the Dutch government that he had no plans for an attack on Holland, but the attack was postponed tens of times. Part of the German plan was the invasion of the neutral Netherlands. The first hours of war in the west would show the first and unprecedented major airborne operation of history . The Germans would drop a force of about 12.000 men in the west of Holland. Apart from this major upsetting event, German assaults in the southeast, central-east and north-east would be launched simultaneously in those first hours. All of these events shall be addressed hereafter. The events of this first day of the invasion are divided over four parts. The first part deals with the battle on the Maasfront in the east and southeast. The second part address the events in the Peel-Raamline. The third part describes the invasion in the northern provinces, at the Ysselline and at the Maas-Waalline. The fourth part is concentrated on the events within the main defense area: Fortress Holland. That shall also include the Air Force operations. The heaviest battles were around the Grebbeline not far from the German border, where 1500 inexperienced older Dutch soldiers were killed in a battle by mostly drunken SS soldiers of the SS Reich Division. (see Ackermans) While Germany had planned to take over swiftly using this tactic, the Dutch halted the advance at the core region of Fortress Holland slowing down the German invasion. The impatient German command then gave a decisive order to bomb the city of Rotterdam to break the Dutch last will. The Rotterdam Blitz was the aerial bombardment of Rotterdam by the Luftwaffe (German air force) on 14 May 1940. The objective was to support the German troops fighting in the city, break Dutch resistance and force the Dutch to surrender. Even though preceding negotiations resulted in a ceasefire, the bombardment took place nonetheless, in conditions which remain controversial, and destroyed almost the entire historic city centre, killing nearly 900 people and making 85.000 others homeless. The psychological and physical success of the raid, from the German perspective, led the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL) to threaten to destroy the city of Utrecht if the Dutch Government did not surrender. The Dutch capitulated early the next morning and the Netherlands were occupied for five years and would cost 200.000 death, soldiers, citizens and a 106.000 Jewish people.